MEXICO CITY – Veteran leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is leading the polls ahead of Mexico’s July 1 presidential election, said on Monday that if elected, he would not summarily cancel the $13 billion project to build a new airport for this sprawling capital.
“We will have a dialogue with the business-owners, with the contractors, and will all of those who are involved – and even supporting investments for those who have bought bonds – to determine what is the best option,” Lopez Obrador said in a speech to the National Tourism Forum.
Lopez Obrador, a former mayor of Mexico City, has described the project as “pharaonic,” suggesting that instead of building a brand new facility, the government should expand and adapt an existing air base in the capital region.
While reiterating his contention that renovating the Santa Lucia military airfield would be the best course of action, the candidate said Monday that he would review all the facts before making a decision.
“I want to speak with the president (Enrique Peña Nieto) about the airport, and to immediately form a team for review and analysis,” Lopez Obrador said to applause from tourism industry executives.
As president, he said, he would not “cancel the possibility of resolving the saturation of the current airport,” but rather ensure that the solution does not involve “excessive” spending or open the door to corruption.
Converting Santa Lucia into a commercial airport would require an investment of up to 70 billion pesos ($3.65 billion), Lopez Obrador said, pointing out that authorities have already spent about the same amount just to prepare the site for the proposed new terminal.
Billionaire Carlos Slim, the world’s seventh-richest person, according to Forbes magazine, said last month that canceling the new airport would hamper Mexico’s economic growth.
The magnate’s Carso conglomerate is a main contractor on the project.
“Carlos Slim came out to say it was a great deal,” Lopez Obrador said Monday. “Why doesn’t he build it with his money?”
The leftist presidential hopeful has also expressed unhappiness that the government is paying for a facility that will be owned and operated by private business under a concession.